Over the last few years, roundabouts have been popping up on Ontario roads. Roundabouts have many advantages over traditional intersections, but it is important that drivers understand how to use them safely.
Simply put, a roundabout is an alternative kind of intersection which has been successfully used in Europe, the USA and Australia for many years. Instead of two roads crossing each other with either stop signs or traffic lights to regulate traffic, the intersection is circular, and drivers travel around it to get to the street they wish to turn on.
In Ontario, roundabouts have a circular island in their centre with a directional sign indicating that you must travel in a clockwise direction.
What are the benefits of roundabouts?
While collisions can still happen on roundabouts, they are much less likely to be severe or fatal. It is estimated that accidents are reduced by as much as 75% on roundabouts. This happens for a couple of reasons. First, the speed that vehicles travel on roundabouts is slower. Second, collisions that do occur on roundabouts tend to be glancing collisions rather than direct collisions, so there is less potential for serious injury.
This alone makes them an excellent decision for regions and municipalities that are building new roads or upgrading existing ones.
There are other benefits to roundabouts too.
- Because there are no traffic lights, less maintenance is required.
- Vehicles can move more quickly when there are roundabouts because there is no delay for traffic signals or four-way stops. This can significantly reduce travel time for drivers.
- Roundabouts are also useful for traffic calming. While you may be able to go full speed through a green light, this isn’t possible with a roundabout. Drivers must slow down, and this can have a cumulative effect in making roads safer.
- Roundabouts are also good for the environment. By slowing traffic down, they not only improve safety, but they help to reduce the amount of emissions that vehicles are releasing. Roundabouts result in fewer greenhouse gasses and air pollution.
How to use a roundabout
If you are not familiar with driving on roundabouts, they can take a bit of getting use to at first. But once you get the hang of it, you’ll find it very simple.
When you are in your car approaching a roundabout, you will see a yield sign and a dashed painted line. Slow your vehicle and be sure to watch for pedestrians and cyclists. Keep your car moving and only stop if it is necessary to avoid a collision.
As you enter the roundabout, you must yield to traffic coming from your left. Roundabouts are one-way, and in Canada, you will always travel to the left in a circular motion and turn right onto your chosen route. Remember to use your right turn signal before you exit and keep an eye out for bicycles and pedestrians.
Many parts of Ontario have issued tickets and fines for misusing a roundabout, so be sure to follow the rules of the road.